Posting from ALB

>> Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's been a good week....I passed my prelims which was the big task for the week, and now I'm on my way to Lake Placid for a friend's wedding. I didn't quite manage to make the wedding present in time, but that will be a September task. I'm hanging out in the Albany airport, waiting for a friend's flight to arrive so we can grab a rental car and head north into the Adirondacks.

On the fabric front, IBOL guy is back with IBOL 2.1. Click over there for the details but the basics are sort through your fabric, figure out what you're ready to part with, bundle it up in a flat-rate box, and ship it IBOL Gal who will distribute it to women in Iraq. It's easy and for a great cause.

Have a great weekend!


Bird Scene

>> Monday, August 23, 2010

...or how the quilt I made for DQS 9 developed. I am, admittedly, a procrastinator. Sometimes. But I love deadlines and I love meeting them and even meeting them early. I knew I needed to complete my DQS 9 quilt by early September and had every intention of completing it by late August. I just didn't start cutting fabric and sewing it until late August either.

I knew I wouldn't get started on it early -- not only would that go against my delaying tendencies (doesn't that sound nicer than procrastinating) but I had work to do. Namely, exams that required me to read hundreds of books. Despite not picking up a rotary cutter and ruler, much less paper and pencil, I spent a lot of time thinking about the mini-quilt and creating design options in my head. Twenty-four hours before I put pen to paper, a task that occurred roughly 15 hours before the first part of my exam, I had a different background design planned. And then I changed my mind.

At the last minute, I decided to try my hand at paper piecing a design I drafted myself. It wasn't hard or complicated but I'd never done it before. To back up a step, I had decided to render a scene with a mixture of pieced and appliqued fabric. Having scrolled through my partner's (henceforth known as P) favorites on flickr, I knew P liked birds or at least bird quilts -- a favorite of mine as well. Then I contemplated backgrounds for birds and came up with a number of possibilities, none of which look like the above.

But new ideas pan out, paper piecing worked, and there lay a rectangle of grey and yellow rays, representing the sun shining down. Where to go from there? Where would the bird go? What would the bird look like -- which is to say, would it be flying or perching since neither my ornithology nor illustration skills would permit much in the way of advanced identifiable bird making. What else would fill the picture? Using a bird cut from IKEA fabric and paper as "grass" or "leaves," I came up with 2 options, the one above and the one below.

Some people sketch, I make cut paper samples -- a remnant, perhaps, of my 2nd grade poster that won a Metro contest for advising people to "be safe on Metro and stay off the tracks" all crafted from ripped construction paper. After posting the 2 options on flickr, the awesome DQS 9 community asked some questions and gave me some suggestions that led to a 3rd option.

Which is the one I elected to pursue. Now I turned to color choices and fabric cutting, needing to work out branches, a bird, leaves, and grass. I sampled a few prints for the bird before selecting the final color. I chopped up some green scraps, cut out charcoal branches (aesthetics, not nature, dictated that choice), and mocked it up (that's what designers say, right?).

A gust of wind would have erased this, sort of like shaking an etch-a-sketch. This was a good thing, because I realized it wasn't yet complete and needed a little more punch.

Punch arrived courtesy a white border, onto which the scene could spill over. Also, it helped the colors pop and cemented my vision of looking out a window onto this scene. In fact, a little red bird (a cardinal perhaps) visited the tree branch outside my window today, but I digress as all this design work occurred a couple days ago. Finally satisfied with the layout, I tacked everything down and then paused to think about how to quilt it. Since I was indecisive, I opted to make the back, which was necessary for moving to the quilting stage anyways.

I started slowly, with the branches and leaves, which boosted my confidence for the bird. I had a sense of what I wanted the grass to look like but was unsure about how the quilting would work out. Fine, it turns out.

Fine after I added the flowers, anyways. The all green, all the time didn't totally work but I let it sit overnight and came up with a solution: flowers! I'm debating whether I should add some iridescent seed beads to the flowers, but aside from that, the quilt is bound and ready to go.

Except for adding my partner's name, that is, to the label. I pieced the back to riff off the front. The patchwork around the label is comprised of fabrics from the front, and I thought my template bird deserved some attention as well, so it got to play second fiddle to the front-side bird on the back. Actually, I really love the back and think it's fun on its own as well.


Family Threads

>> Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In March, my family gathered to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. In one of her many boxes full of collected stuff -- hotel soaps and shampoos were by far the most common item found in decorated tins -- my sister found spools of thread. Lilac and dark purple, mauve and gray, neutral white and useful black, baby blue and aqua. Plus a dark green loner and a single spool of mustardy yellow. As my grandmother was dispersing quite a few items from her apartment, I asked if I could have the thread. "No," she retorted, "I might need it." It wasn't clear to any of us present when or how she might use the thread, for she gave me her sewing machine (the only one I have, which I use regularly) over 5 years ago and she wasn't actively sewing anymore. But I said, "ok, enjoy the thread," and left it at that. She wanted to keep the thread and I respected that; regardless of whether she was actively using it, it obviously comforted her to have a full complement of colors nearby.

The wooden box of colorful semi-tangled thread now resides with me. Lodged amidst two dozen books I needed to read, it traveled back with me by plane on Sunday. Grandma died a little over a week ago, on August 10, five months after she celebrated 90 full years of life. Her death was both sudden and unexpected; two weeks ago she suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage, at which point the end loomed near. But like the stubborn woman she was throughout her life, she didn't let go easily.

My grandmother did not, shall we say, prize the domestic arts. She grew up in a family of means in Germany and learned book-keeping and pursued various athletic activities with her father. She was a terrible cook, having abandoned the home ec classes her parents sent her to a Swiss finishing school to learn in favor of becoming fluent in French. Forced to cook when she escaped Nazi Germany on a domestic service visa to England, she relied on a cookbook and my grandfather who was far more proficient at food preparation. No offense to Britons, but I don't think cooking skills learned on the fly in wartime England yield particularly exemplary kitchen talents. She did, however, love sweets, and her baking far outpaced her cooking. I don't know when or where she learned to knit, but it was the only "typical" domestic activity I encountered her doing with joy. We all received blankets and sweaters, often monogrammed, in her signature style -- which may well have a name, but being unfamiliar with knitting ways, I can't elaborate effectively.

Perhaps it's because of the knitting that she had so many buttons. I can't really account for the thread or the trim which I never saw her use. But as someone who fled her home with only a couple of dollars, Grandma saved everything. Hence the array of buttons, snaps, and trim we found in the boxes in her apartment. I also found some some vintage -- though I don't think she would have categorized them as such! -- sheets, including both 60s florals and old linen with lace edges.

While my grandmother didn't teach me to sew and I never sewed with her, it struck me yesterday that one of my most material connections to her is through her sewing. She gave me my sewing machine -- which she bought but never appeared to use -- and I now have a stack of material and notions from her. I also brought back this stack of handkerchiefs, some of which have her name or her mother's name embroidered on them. Aside from washing them, I'm not sure exactly what I'll do with them, but I'd like to make something with them. There aren't enough for a quilt by themselves, and I'm not sure how well they'll work with other cotton. I think I'll probably need to interface them to be able to sew them as some are quite delicate. Except for the yellow one peeking out above, the rest are white, some plain and some embroidered. I'd like to make something that will be used, perhaps a challah cover (or several). If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear your suggestions.



>> Friday, August 13, 2010

A heaty welcome to everyone who has popped over from Amy's interview. Due to some unexpected events in my life over the past week, I've posted less than usual but please take a look around and come back soon! I'll hopefully be back to more regular blogging next week.



>> Thursday, August 5, 2010

A friend suggested checking out Inspired by Charm, and I'm glad I did. Michael owns and runs Old Charm, a B&B in St. Marys, PA that, indeed, looks quite charming. Most importantly, however, Michael has decided to try his hand at quilting and will be making a quilt from squares others send him to display in the B&B. Click on the link to learn more.

I really like reading about projects like this, and I'll be sending some squares in shortly. But while you're over at his blog, look around. He posts wonderful pictures, displays awesome creativity (check out the painted oars and his ever-changing gift shop walls), and seems to truly enjoy what he does.

And on a charmed note, I'm feeling pretty charmed myself as I learned today that I won 12 half-yards of Pat Bravo fabric (of Art Gallery fame) from a giveaway on True-Up. Sweet.


Madtown Micro-Tour

>> Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I spent a lovely weekend in Madison, WI spending time with friends, eating really well, floating down the river (good minus the inevitable sunburn), and enjoying my old neighborhood. Walking around reminded me of just how awesome it is to be able to walk just a couple blocks to wonderful places. I whipped out my camera and grabbed a few shots of what you encounter just a couple blocks from where I used to live.

There's ye olde co-op, with all sorts of local, organic deliciousness. The grasshopper brownies -- which come 3 ways, regular, gluten-free, and vegan -- are quite possibly the most delicious things on this planet. I recommend buying one, freezing it, and eating it. Also, the fire-roasted jalapeno cream cheese is most fantastic. Joel gave me 2 for my birthday; I froze them and snuck them through airport security. The coop also sells Gotham Bagels, which is very important because they make the best pumpernickel bagels I've encountered in the Midwest.

St. Vinny's is a crosswalk away from the co-op. Occasionally I've found good fabric there, though not on this trip. They have an excellent array of stuffed animals perfect for buying for your favorite dog who will destroy them in short order. On Friday I went in and bought Max a gorilla. The ten-year-old girl watching this transaction expressed some dismay at my selection of a "good" animal for the dog. She thought a hard, ugly doll-thing would be better but I explained he would choke on that so the gorilla it was. The gorilla was gone by the evening's end.

Moving right along, Lazy Jane's Cafe offers scrumptious breakfast, brunch, and lunch options in a delightfully eccentric (mismatched plates, cutlery, chairs, etc + local artists' art on the walls) environment. It's ridiculously crowded on weekends, so I recommend stopping by mid-week.

Just in case you need to get a clock repaired, there's a place for that too. Admittedly, I'm not sure I've ever seen it open regularly, but, hey it might serve a need.

Ha Long Bay is new since I left. But Jenny and I are there on Sunday night and I give it my stamp of approval. I love Thai food and my go-to dish is Panang curry. They make it well, in huge portions, without fish sauce (which some places sneak in to their curries making them inaccessible to my vegetarian self). The service was a bit slow but the food -- which is quite reasonably priced -- made up for it. Elsewhere on Willy St, Laotian food awaits at Lao Laan-Xang. The pineapple curry is no longer on the menu but they'll still make it for you (I always add broccoli).

Also new to me is Batch Bakery which has all sorts of pastries, bread, cookies, and treats. The monkey-bread muffin is stellar.

Although Hans' Sewing and Vacuum closed a few years ago, Gayfeather Fabrics remains. It's a tiny local fabric store with a variety of quilting cottons, canvas, wool, silk, and the like. They seem to be carrying more modern lines and patterns now -- the window display on the left had aprons and bags from Amy Butler patterns. They also offer sewing classes which, alas, I learned about too late for my partaking. And although they are not cheap, I couldn't leave without picking up a little something.

I opted for 1/4 yard cuts of Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley and Tanya Whelan's Dolce. I'm not sure what I'll use them for, but I think they look quite fine together and thus will try and design something around them.

That covers about 5 blocks of Willy St. If you're ever in Madison, I recommend spending some time there.


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